As the Lightning close in on their second straight Stanley Cup, they are essentially back in the bubble environment where they won last year’s Cup.
They traveled to Montreal on a strictly-monitored charter flight, are restricted to their hotel when not at the Bell Centre, and on Saturday, their families’ request to gain a special exemption to travel too Canada for a potential Cup-clinching Game 4 on Monday was denied by the league.
With Canada still under firm quarantine rules, the NHL worked out a deal with the Canadian government to allow teams to travel to and from Canada for the postseason. The Lightning are considered a fully-vaccinated team by the league.
Now, with the Lightning up 3-0 on the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final and able to potentially clinch on Monday in Game 4, the team’s families were seeking an exemption to travel to Montreal for that game. There was discussion about flying them on a private charter for the game and returning afterward, but that request was denied.
Last year, the Lightning lived in isolation in the bubble for 65 days in Canada — their playoff run began in Toronto, then moved to Edmonton — on their way to a Stanley Cup title.
“We’re just back in the bubble scenario again,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Saturday. “It’s just a different hotel. Hats off to where we’re staying right now. They’ve been wonderful to us. If we were going into this the first time, it would most certainly be different. But we spent 65 days in this exact same environment and we thrived in it.
“We know what to expect. There’s no complaining. There’s no, ‘I can’t believe we can’t go outside, especially when we look outside and everyone is walking around maskless and living their lives,’ especially, to me, in one of the greatest cities in the world.”
The Lightning’s hotel transformed a ballroom into a team lounge with games that Cooper compared to a Dave & Buster’s.
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